Simple and immediate the logo designed for Palermo Capital of Culture 2018 by the 22 year old Sabrina Ciprì – student at the Academy of Arts – declines in four languages the cultures that laid the foundations in the city of Palermo.
In one of the most evocative corners of the historic center of Palermo, the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi stands in its severe monumentality, one of the most distinguished and significant churches in Palermo for its artistic and historical value. An authentic treasure of history and masterpieces of art by the greatest Sicilian artists and not only, who left here works of extraordinary beauty.
According to the historian Fazello, the Church of St. John of the Lepers was the first of the Norman buildings erected in the city, when Robert the Guiscard and Roger of Autville besieged Arabian Palermo. For others, it went back to the period of Roger II, in the first half of the 20th century and draws its name from a leprous hospital, now destroyed, which the king himself built in memory of his brother Goffredo.
Walking through the colorful and crowded streets of Ballarò market, you can see a dome in the distance, probably the most beautiful in the city, covered in majolica, that’s one of the most fanciful buildings of Sicilian baroque. It belongs to the Church of Carmine Maggiore, built by Carmelites in the end of the XII century then demolished and built back up at the beginning of XVII century based on a design by Mariano Smiriglio. The outside is decorated with four pairs of fluted columns with four Atlases that hold up the dome in between. Inside the church with 3 naves, it’s important to see the holy water fountain and the Gagini statues, the stuccoes by Serpotta and the Vergine del Carmelo painted by Pietro Novelli.
The Four Corners (Quattro Canti) are the symbolic centre of Palermo, where via Maqueda and Corso Vittorio Emanuele intersect under the eyes of Spanish Kings and patron saints. Palazzo Costantino Di Napoli rises there with its 8,700 sq.m of stuccoes, frescoes, stairways and 18th-century rooms.
An old belief states that in this Norman church, commissioned by Roberto Guiscardo in 1072, the future mother of Frederick II Queen Constantine D’Altavilla and Santa Rosalia, patron saint of the city before retiring to hermetic life, became nuns. With the aim of creating an even more sumptuous temple overlooking the Cassaro, the church was demolished and rebuilt, first in 1528 and later in 1682 by Paolo Amato, who made the two larger chapels and projected the elliptic dome. Partially destroyed by bombings in 1943 and restored in 1959, it houses stuccos, decorations and majestic frescoes by Vito D’Anna. Today it is used as an auditorium for classical concerts.
How many times have you passed from Vigliena Square, best known as the “Four Corners”? Have you ever noticed the four sculptures represented in the three architectural orders? In addition to the allegorical representation of the four seasons and the four Spanish Kings, on the third order we can observe the sculptures of four women, the four holy protectors of the four districts: Agata, Cristina, Ninfa and Oliva. But who were really these women, heroines of faith, whose devotion has gone fading over the centuries to completely disappear? Women first of all, in a period when the female figure was strongly relegated to the back of society. Heroes and martyrs of a dull, obtuse society that let them paid in life their personal choices of faith. Mythical legends and tales that surely have wrapped up and twisted their real stories. But let’s briefly know each other more closely one by one.
Easter is one of the most important religious event and combines the main moments of Passion, Death and Risen of Christ to the folk rituals, sometimes through dramatic and theatrical forms of expression often in structured and complex way, symbol of total renovation. What is most impressive of Easter in Sicily is the active participation of many people that express itself not only with the classical procession and pilgrimages, but also with the alternation of sad feelings for the Death of Christ and those cheerful and joyful for his Risen. During the Holy Week the historic center of Palermo comes alive with spectacular processions of the painful drama of the dead Christ.
Ten hectares, a bicentennial history: the Botanical Garden is the oldest scientific garden in Europe, among the most prestigious international institutions. Wanted by the Bourbon kings, some nobles and scholars with the aim of contributing to the development of plant science in the interests of medicine and agriculture, it houses plants from all continents with exceptional specimens.
The complex, built in 1789 in neoclassical style (the first example in Sicily), includes the central building, the Gymnasium for the lessons in botany, an Herbarium and other two parts the Calidarium and the Tepidarium.
In more than 10 hectares of its current extension it accommodates a scientific collection of more than 12,000 different species of plants grown in the ground, all arranged according to systematic botanical criteria, where you can admire beautiful specimens of Ficus magnolioides, dragon trees, aloe plants, many collections of exotic plants and many species of palms from all continents. Moreover in this “herbarium mediterraneum” there are preserved tens of thousands of dried plants that constitute a great heritage of scientific and cultural interest.
A walk along the avenues of the gardens is a real journey in science, art and nature.
One of the most fascinating places in the city, Saint Mary of the Spasimo Church is located in the historic district of the Kalsa, one of the oldest in Palermo. Built around 1509, the works were never concluded. Some years later it became necessary to consolidate the city’s defense system. They were built new boundary walls around the church and in 1537 a fosse was made to dig where once there was the convent. In 1569 the Senate of Palermo bought the complex for military reasons and the monks were forced to move elsewhere.